Sales at Pizza Hut, which had declines for several quarters against competitors like Domino's and Papa John's, improved slightly this spring. But the chain's turnaround is far from over.
Comparable store sales in the U.S. increased just 1% in the second quarter, but Pat Grismer, chief financial officer for Pizza Hut owner Yum Brands, told investors on an earnings call on Wednesday that the company expects Pizza Hut "to fall well short of its ongoing growth targets" despite improving results.
"We're intently working to become more competitive. Turning around these results will not happen overnight," Yum CEO Greg Creed told investors.
The company is still by far the country's largest pizza chain, and it launched a new menu and redesign in 2014. So far, that initiative has not produced the sales lift the chain expected.
Pizza Hut will focus on improving value, digital initiatives and sales, updating restaurants, and marketing. "There's no one silver bullet," Creed said. "We're not happy with the progress, but we are making progress, and I think you'll see us continue to make more progress as the year unfolds."
Comments left on Pizza Hut's Facebook page, which has earned 25 million likes, reveals problems with the chain's products and services that have less to do with the new menu and more with inconsistencies in food quality and service. "We want to deliver a consistent, quality experience every time. That's how we train our teams and what expectation we've set with our customer," said spokesman Doug Terfehr in an email.
While praise for Pizza Hut is also easy to find on social media — it was the highest-ranked pizza chain in the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index survey released last month — the company likely has been apologizing to customers more than it would like.